Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, the suburban chain of restaurants on a mission to demystify wines for novices, plans to open its new flagship Gold Coast restaurant on Monday, November 11. Ownership remodeled the ritzy former Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House space on Oak Street, which closed in November 2018. Cooper’s Hawk founder and CEO Tim McEnery said he has long coveted the three-level, 24,000-square-foot space to house his company’s first city restaurant as a way to showcase its wines to Chicagoans. It also represents an urban space for special wine events that he hopes will attract Cooper’s Hawk’s most loyal customers.
Cooper’s Hawk is taking a different approach with its newest location — it’s the first that will stock wines from vineyards other than its own. While management wants it to be conducive to regular visits from locals, Gold Coasters wanting a rare vintage should be in luck. Gold Coast is an atypical Chicago neighborhood — it’s the city’s richest area.
“There will be opportunities to spend,” said Cooper’s Hawk master sommelier Emily Wines — yes, that’s her name.
The chain operates 39 locations across 10 states. Those normally stock about 55 Cooper’s Hawk wines made in suburban Woodridge. All are available by the bottle or glass. The bottle labels contain quirky names based on pop-culture references that mention wine, including quotes from the Princess Bride and lyrics from the Beastie Boys’ Body Movin’. Wines said the decision to bring in other wine makers for the city location was easy.
“With this restaurant, we want to be a tribute to the world of wine,” Wines said. “And we can’t tell that story with Cooper’s Hawk alone.”
Wines said some wine snobs roll their eyes at Cooper’s Hawk’s approach. But she doesn’t care. Cooper’s Hawk is meant to nurture novice wine drinkers and educate them.
“I will never diss anything that anyone’s drinking,” she said.
The company brings in a loyal customer base. While wine clubs are popular in Napa and Sonoma, Cooper’s Hawk’s club is one of the largest direct-to-consumer programs in the world with about 400,000 members. About 150,000 of those members are in the Chicago area, according to the company.
Del Frisco’s had a nice seven-year run at 58 E. Oak Street in Chicago. National chains don’t typically have long lives in Chicago, though the world of downtown real estate offers them plenty of opportunities, and Cooper’s Hawk has taken advantage of this one.
Stay tuned for a peek inside the renovated space.